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Progress, Hope, and Commitment

Feb 28, 2014, 10:55 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA

Nearly seven years ago, this Foundation made a major commitment to reversing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. We had many reasons, but chief among them was the decades of data showing more and more young people in America facing greater challenges to growing up healthy. We, and many others, knew it was an unsustainable path. So we pledged $500 million to reverse the trend, and joined forces with a wide range of partners to address the many different facets that an effort of this magnitude would require. Big challenges require big commitments.

This week has been one of the most exciting in the last seven years. Research published Tuesday shows a major decline in the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 5 over the last eight years. This is a very real sign of progress, because we know that preventing obesity at an early age is likely to help children maintain a healthy weight into adulthood. The significant decline measured by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follows progress we’ve started to see over the last 18 months.

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The Ripple Effect of Asthma Programming

Nov 1, 2013, 2:58 PM, Posted by Molly McKaughan

There was once a small boy. He was 5 years old, and he lived in a neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in an environment that was rife with potential triggers for asthma.

Back in 2006, we wrote about this boy in a report assessing the impact of one of our programs, Managing Pediatric Asthma.

JH, as we called him then, was enrolled in that program. And with good reason. He coughed and wheezed four days out of every seven, and had made four visits to the emergency department at Children’s National Medical Center in the previous year.

It’s been a long time since I’d thought about JH, but his compelling story came flooding back to me when I read a recent story in the Washington Post about an asthma clinic at this same hospital.  It teaches families of kids with asthma, kids like JH, how to manage the condition with medication, ultimately reducing the number of trips to the emergency room.

According to the Post article, “The clinic has had some success. ER visit rates for asthma have fallen by 40 percent, even as the prevalence of asthma continues to rise.”

Those hopeful results reminded me of JH and other kids just like him, and of RWJF’s important investment in pediatric asthma. The story demonstrates how one program can have such a ripple effect—making a big difference, not only in the life of one very small boy years ago, but in the lives of children with asthma living in Washington today.

 

Childhood Obesity Is Everybody's Problem

Aug 9, 2013, 9:59 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Why? Because, aside from the deleterious impact on the health of kids individually, childhood obesity can have an adverse effect on “our economy, our health care system, and our future,” writes RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, in a new blog post on the professional social networking site, LinkedIn.

So what can you do? Quite a bit, Lavizzo-Mourey concludes.

The rate of childhood obesity has been soaring for more than three decades. That has been cause for deep distress, and still is. All the same, she writes, there is new reason for hope, and it is to be found in the findings of an August 6 report by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

The report suggests that, for the first time, obesity rates dropped in 18 states and one U.S. territory in recent years for low-income children ages 2 to 4.

The report, while not cause for complacency, suggests that—although childhood obesity is still a major health concern—there are steps we can take to arrest and reverse the epidemic.

“The diverse group of states and communities with declines have instituted a wide range of programs to help families make healthy choices where they live, learn, play, and work—programs that can be adapted and scaled up by other regions,” Lavizzo-Mourey asserts. “All of these communities have one important thing in common—they have made childhood obesity prevention a priority.”

In 2007, the Foundation pledged $500 million to meet a goal of reversing the epidemic by 2015. “We know we can do it,” Lavizzo-Mourey writes, “but we can’t do it alone.”

Address Toxic Stress in Vulnerable Children and Families for a Healthier America

Jun 21, 2013, 1:43 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Susan Dentzer

“Speed kills,” warns the traditional highway sign about the dangers of haste and traffic deaths. Now, we know that stress kills, too.

Toxic stress, at any rate. The human body’s response to normal amounts of stress—say, a bad day at the office—is likely to be brief increases in the heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. But a toxic stress response, stemming from exposure to a major shock or prolonged adversity such as physical or emotional abuse, can wreak far more havoc.         

In children, science now shows that toxic stress can disrupt the developing brain and organ systems. The accumulated lifelong toll of stress-related hormones sharply raises the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood, ranging from heart disease and diabetes to depression and atherosclerosis.

Thus, the message from a panel of experts to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America was at once simple and challenging: Create a healthier environment for—and increase coping mechanisms and resilience in—the nation’s most vulnerable and stress-ridden children and families.

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Ranking the Healthiest Counties for Kids

Jun 13, 2013, 4:43 PM, Posted by Joe Marx

Healthy Eating at School

Let’s say you’re moving your family to a new community.  Could be a job opportunity or life change.  When it comes to health, should you be thinking about the quality of hospital care for your kids?  Or, whether the community you’re going to is a healthy place for kids to grow up and thrive?

Well, both matter, but until recently, the things that lead to better health—and perhaps keep kids from going to the hospital in the first place—have received less attention.  But we are beginning to see a dynamic shift from emphasis on sick care to prevention and wellness.  A good example is this week’s US News & World Report ranking of “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids”. These are the folks who give us report cards on colleges, hospitals and best places to retire. Released as part of their “Best Children’s Hospitals” annual report, the article emphasizes important factors that lead to better health, or not, in the places where we live and raise our families. Things like how many kids are living in poverty, teen birth rates, infant deaths and injuries.

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